NbN 2015 End of Year Football Awards

Big plays, big hits, and jaw-dropping performances - We love NESCAC football. (Courtesy of Michael O'Hara/Middlebury Campus)
Big plays, big hits, and jaw-dropping performances – We love NESCAC football. (Courtesy of Michael O’Hara/Middlebury Campus)

We’re very sad to see football season go. Covering all of the drama, success and disappointment this season, it’s felt at times like we were on the field ourselves, living through the ups and downs. On a grand scale, Amherst took a lot of the drama out of the season by so consistently dispatching its opponents, but let’s not downgrade the exceptional performances of so many individuals on every team across the league. Even amongst so many standout showings, a few deserve recognition above all else.

Offensive Player of the Year: Tufts RB Chance Brady ’17

Chance Brady '17 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Chance Brady ’17 (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Brady was on our radar coming into the year, but we had no idea he was this good. Not only did he split carries last season with Zack Trause ’15 practically 50-50, but Tufts has historically been one of the most pass-happy offenses in the NESCAC. That completely changed this season with Brady serving as a workhorse for the Jumbos. Brady had 187 carries (two behind Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17), and led all qualified running backs in yards, yards per game and yards per carry while also tallying 11 rushing scores, two shy of the Tufts single-season record.

Honorable Mention: Middlebury QB Matt Milano ’16, Middlebury WR Matt Minno ’16, Amherst QB Reece Foy ’18, Trinity QB Sonny Puzzo ’18, Colby RB Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17

Defensive Players of the Year: Wesleyan DE Jordan Stone ’17 and Bates LB Mark Upton ’17

Mark Upton '17 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)
Mark Upton ’17 (Courtesy of Bates Athletics)

Adam – Sheer production is the best way to describe Mark Upton’s career at Bates, and he gets my vote for DPOY because of his leadership on a young defense to go along with those gaudy stats. Bates lost a lot from their 2014 defense, including the majority of the linebackers who played besides him. Teams game planned towards Upton unlike before, and while he couldn’t quite match the 84 tackles he had last year, he came close. Upton finished with 71 tackles, four sacks, three forced fumbles, and an interception. He played best down the stretch averaging 9.8 tackles per game in his final five games.

Jordan Stone '17 (Courtesy of Wesleyan University Athletics)
Jordan Stone ’17 (Courtesy of Wesleyan University Athletics)

Joe – I went with Jordan Stone because he was a physical monster. Not only that, but Stone played alongside a bunch of freshmen on the D-line, and the Wesleyan defense as a whole was very green, so his numbers stand out that much more – and boy are they impressive. Thirty-five total tackles, 5.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Ten! When thinking about these kinds of awards, my biggest question is always, Which player would it hurt the most to lose? I think this season it was Stone.

Honorable Mention: Amherst LB Evan Boynton ’17 , Middlebury DL Gil Araujo ’16, Bowdoin LB Branden Morin ’16, Middlebury CB Nate Leedy ’17, Trinity S Paul McCarthy ’16, Tufts LB Zach Thomas ’18

Kicker/Punter of the Year: Trinity K/P Kyle Pulek ’16

K/P Kyle Pulek '16 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
K/P Kyle Pulek ’16 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Pulek was consistently great punting the football (15 inside the 20, including six against Middlebury alone, which was a huge difference in the Bantams winning that contest), but it was his proficiency once thrust into the kicking role that gives him the edge over Amherst’s Jackson McGonagle ’16. Last season, Trinity’s kicking faults more or less directly led to a pair of Trinity losses. This season, kicker Eric Sachse ’19 was doing a fine job before he went down with an injury. Pulek came on and looked like a seasoned vet, making 10-10 extra points and 5-8 field goals – two of those misses were blocks, and the other was from 39 yards out.

Honorable Mention: Amherst P Jackson McGonagle, Tufts K/P Willie Holmquist ’17, Hamilton P Pat Donahoe ’16

Return Man of the Year: Trinity KR/PR Darrien Myers ’17

KR/PR Darrien Myers '17 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
KR/PR/WR Darrien Myers ’17 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

Not a ton of options on this one, and Myers is a more than deserving candidate, mostly because of his work on punt returns. He averaged 13.5 yards per return, a pretty sick number. Two of his returns went for touchdowns, and his 74-yard punt return for a touchdown against Middlebury was a huge lift in their eventual win. Myers was not as dynamic on kickoffs as he has been in the past averaging 22.3 yards per return, but he still was a clear choice for us.

Honorable Mention: Tufts KR/PR Mike Rando ’17 and Williams KR/PR Mark Pomella ’16

Rookie of the Year: Hamilton DE Tyler Hudson ’19

DE Tyler Hudson '19 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)
DE Tyler Hudson ’19 (Courtesy of Hamilton Athletics)

Hudson exploded out of the gates with as good a debut in the NESCAC as anyone has had in awhile. Against Tufts he had 15 tackles with 4.5 tackles for loss. Keep in mind that he plays defensive end! He wasn’t that productive the rest of the year, but the final stats of 47 tackles, four sacks, and 12.5 TFL (second in the NESCAC) are pretty nifty. Hudson is so good that he even was on the field for the Continentals goal line package, though he never was able to bring in a reception. Hudson will be fun to watch for the next three years.

Honorable Mention: Tufts DB Tim Preston ’19, Trinity LB Shane Libby ’19, Trinity RB Max Chipouras ’19, Bowdoin DB Cam Rondeau ’19

Coach of the Year: Tufts’ Jay Civetti

Tufts Head Coach Jay Civetti (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Tufts Head Coach Jay Civetti (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

With apologies to EJ Mills who cranks out 8-0 seasons like they can be made on an assembly line, Coach Jay Civetti deserves this one. The Jumbos went 6-2 and took another big step forward as a program. This season Tufts turned into a team that ran the ball first and forced big plays on defense. That is the EXACT opposite of what this team was just two years ago. It took Civetti a little time to have the results show up on the field, but what he is building at Tufts both on and off the field is impressive, and we were impressed with how he fit his game plan to his players’ talents.

Honorable Mention: Amherst’s EJ Mills, Wesleyan’s Dan DiCenzo

Breakout Player of the Year: Amherst QB Reece Foy ’18

QB Reece Foy '18 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
QB Reece Foy ’18 (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Our biggest worry for Amherst coming into the year was that they would be plagued by subpar QB play. Foy was not perfect this year, but he was the catalyst for the Amherst offense. He played his best football in the first half putting up more than 250 yards of total offense between running and passing in each of his first three games. He didn’t surpass that mark again the rest of the way, but he still made enough plays down the stretch of games. He ranked in the top five amongst starters for passing yards, yards per attempt, completion percentage, and touchdowns, so calling him above average is a pretty easy call.

Honorable Mention: Hamilton WR Charles Ensley ’17, Tufts LB Zach Thomas ’18, Bowdoin WR Nick Vailas ’18, Trinity LB Liam Kenneally ’18, Bates CB Trevor Lyons ’17

Most Surprising Team: Tufts

Tufts took the lead by storm this season. They are for real. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Tufts took the lead by storm this season. They are for real. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Well this couldn’t have been easier. Tufts was the most surprising team a year ago, and they still managed to up their play this season. By beating one of the big dogs in Week 8, Tufts really made a statement about their ability to compete in the future. Two years removed from a 31-game losing streak, Tufts might be a title contender in 2016.

Honorable Mention: Hamilton

Best Single Unit: Amherst LBs

Thomas Kleyn ’16 (#52) and Evan Boynton ’17 (#40) led Amherst’s dominant linebacking corps. (Photo by Joe MacDonald)

Given that Amherst graduated two VERY good linebackers from the 2014 team, not many would have thought this unit would end up here. But Evan Boynton ’17, Tom Kleyn ’16, Parker Chapman ’17 and Jack Drew ’16 were phenomenal. Their individual statistics are all great of course, and you can look at them here. As a group they were great tacklers, never allowing for big plays. Unlike many linebackers in the NESCAC, this group was equally good against the run and pass, making the Amherst defense able to adjust to anything.

Honorable Mention: Trinity OL, Middlebury DBs, Wesleyan RBs, Amherst K/P

Consistency Award: Middlebury LB Tim Patricia ’16

LB Tim Patricia '16 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)
LB Tim Patricia ’16 (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Patricia gets this award not just for his performance in 2015, but for the entire body of work that is his stellar career. The California native came all the way to Vermont to play ball and made an impact right away. Patricia started 32 games in his career and amassed 289 tackles – the third-most in Middlebury history since 1994 when they started recording individual defensive statistics. It’s rare to see a player lead an entire defense from Day One and never miss a beat.

Honorable Mention: Amhest WR Devin Boehm ’17, Amherst DB Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn ’16, Bowdoin TE Bryan Porter ’18, Chance Brady, Jabari Hurdle-Price

Amherst, MA, Title Town: Week 7 Game of the Week

Amherst has done nothing but celebrate this season. (Photo by Joe MacDonald)
Amherst has done nothing but celebrate this season. (Photo by Joe MacDonald)

Game Info: Trinity (6-0) at Amherst (6-0): 1:00 PM, Amherst, MA

There’s no doubt about it. The NESCAC Championship will be determined this Saturday when two undefeated powerhouses clash in Amherst. Technically, we could get a shared title if the winner this weekend loses in Week 8 and vice versa, the loser this weekend wins in Week 8 … but we think that’s a silly rule and so we’re going to go ahead and say that this weekend’s winner will be the NESCAC champion.

This matchup dates back to 1886 (a game which Amherst won 20-4), and the LJ’s hold the all-time advantage 58-43-9 over Trinity. But that’s all ancient history. Sports is a “What have you done for me lately” kind of business, and lately Amherst has edged out a couple of victories by the slimmest of margins. In 2013, Amherst Head Coach EJ Mills got his 100th victory as the LJ’s slipped by Trinity, 17-16. The difference in that one was a mixed extra point by former Trinity kicker Ben Rosenblatt ’17 late in the fourth quarter. Tragically for the former kicker, a missed extra point was the only difference in the 2014 matchup, as well. The Bantams offense had been suffering greatly by that point in the season. Phenomenal RB Chudi Iregbulem ’15 was banged up for most of the second half of the year. Current QB Sonny Puzzo ’18 was out for the year, and starter Henry Foye ’16 down with an injury, so fill-in Hayden Jardine ’16 was only able to manufacture one scoring drive in the first quarter. Despite multiple takeaways, Amherst was still scoreless into the fourth quarter. Finally, LB Chris Tamasi ’15 recovered a game-changing fumble that led to a 39-yard TD drive and an Amherst victory.

What does all of this mean for this year’s game? Not much more than we know it won’t come easy to either team. The Trinity offense is much improved from the one that battled with the LJ’s last year, but otherwise a lot of the same characters are back. Trinity has a brand new linebacking corps, but this year’s rendition is as good as ever. The same is true for a couple of the Amherst linebackers, but the biggest change for the Lord Jeffs is Reece Foy ’18 at quarterback.

Things have been a little off recently for Foy, who has four interceptions in his last two games and had his lowest yardage total and yards per attempt a week ago against Tufts. Foy hasn’t been able to use his legs effectively much, either, even though he has the athleticism to do so. He’s become a pass-first QB, which is commendable, especially in a day and age where we glorify “dual-threats” and love to watch QBs scramble and make plays, but maybe what he needs now is a chance to use his legs a little bit. A QB draw here, a roll out scramble there, and suddenly the linebackers start drawing in, allowing Foy to hit some of his talented wideouts over the top.

Trinity X-factor: OLB Shane Libby ’19

It didn’t really strike me that Libby was a freshman until I sat down to write this article. Yeah I knew the kid was good, but holy crap I didn’t know he was this good and this young. The Bantams run a 3-4 with three down lineman and the fourth linebacker on the line of scrimmage. As the stand-up D-end in Trinity’s base defense, his job is to get after the passer. In any game, the two keys for defenses are 1) turnovers and 2), and this is the one I’m concerned about, shutting down one phase of the opponent’s game. Pundits always focus on shutting down the run, but it can be just as effective to shut down a team’s passing game which subsequently allows a defense to bottle up the run. That’s a long way of saying that if Libby can put pressure on Foy – and improve on his team-leading 3.5 sacks – then everything else will fall into place for the Trinity defense.

Amherst X-factor: K Charlie Wall ’18

Hey! A kicker shout out!

It’s been a one-point game the last two years, and the difference has been the kicking game. Phillip Nwosu ’15 was a great kicker, but Wall has stepped in superbly. The man is 7-8 on field goals for the best percentage in the league and 21-23 on extra points – most of anyone in the NESCAC. He doesn’t have as big of a leg as Nwosu, but he’s very consistent. Whether it’s a field goal or an extra point, I’m feeling that there will be an influential kick at some point on Saturday.

The Trinity special teams will try its best to interrupt K Charlie Wall '18 and Co. (Courtesy of Michael O'Hara/Middlebury Campus)
The Trinity special teams will try its best to interrupt K Charlie Wall ’18 and Co. (Courtesy of Michael O’Hara/Middlebury Campus)


Everything Else

So who has the advantage? Let’s break it down.

Let’s start with the Amherst offense and the Trinity defense. Furthermore, let’s start with the passing game. Foy has been a little inconsistent, but if you look at the season as a whole, he’s actually taken remarkably good care of the ball. Here’s a fun little chart that may or may not be useful:

Quarterback Attempts Interceptions Attempts/Interception
Gabe Harrington 167 9 18.55555556
Pat Dugan 119 5 23.8
Noah Nelson 132 5 26.4
Tim Drakeley 107 4 26.75
Chase Rosenberg 82 3 27.33333333
Matt Milano 258 9 28.66666667
Gernald Hawkins 149 5 29.8
Austin Lommen 237 7 33.85714286
Sonny Puzzo 171 5 34.2
Reece Foy 171 5 34.2
Alex Snyder 173 5 34.6
Cole Freeman 124 1 124

Foy is among the league’s best in attempts/interception. However, Trinity is great at making opposing QBs pay with 11 interceptions on the season, most in the league. The Bantams are going to be focused on stopping the Amherst rushing attack, though, so I don’t see Foy making many mistakes.

In terms of the ground game, Amherst’s biggest strength is the ability to cycle backs through. Kenny Adinkra ’16 is as tough as they come, Nick Kelly ’17 was the team’s best back a year ago but has dealt with injuries this season, and Jack Hickey ’19 might be the most talented of all, combining size and speed to average 6.8 yards per carry. The Amherst O-line is elite, and while the Trinity D-line is definitely good, I give the edge to Amherst.

On the flip side, I was shocked by the sheer size of the Trinity offensive line when I saw them in person. Of course, size isn’t necessarily the only thing that matters when it comes to O-line play, but it definitely helps. RT Chris Simmons ’18 is a tank, and all Max Chipouras ’19 needs to do is follow Simmons and Co. to the promised land. But – and there’s always a “but” – Amherst’s ability to rotate six defensive linemen keeps the LJs fresh. After watching the Middlebury defensive line handle the Trinity rushing attack a week ago, I have faith that Amherst can do the same.

It’s going to be imperative for Puzzo to find some targets downfield if Trinity is going to move the football. Too often the offense relies on a big play from the defense or special teams to spark a drive. While I never count out Darrien Myers ’17 in the return game, I’ve already talked about my faith in Amherst to hold onto the football and not turn it over. Much like Foy, Puzzo hasn’t been using his legs much recently. I don’t think he’s necessarily as inclined as Foy to run anyway. But maybe this would be a good time for Puzzo to run a little bit, too. After all, Wesleyan QB Gernald Hawkins ’18 gashed the Amherst D for 85 yards on 21 attempts earlier this season.


If it were a simple numbers game, the analysis above would suggest that Amherst will come out on top. The Jeffs seem to have the advantage in almost every phase discussed above. I give them the edge both rushing and passing against the Trinity defense, and in their ability to stop the Trinity running attack. Where Trinity closes the gap, I believe, is in the passing game – something that might be surprising for a team that is pretty run-first – but that’s where I think they can exploit the Jeffs.

It’s going to be a low-scoring game, much like the last two seasons. And special teams could be the difference, which of course favors the Bantams. Amherst is looking for its 18th straight win, and Trinity is looking to return to the pinnacle, a place they long remained. This is one for the history books, boys and girls. One that will see Trinity end up victorious.

Trinity 17 – Amherst 14

Amherst vs. Amherst – I Mean, Wesleyan: Week 5 Game of the Week

Kenny Adinkra '16 is ready to rumble. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Kenny Adinkra ’16 is ready to rumble. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Game Information: Saturday, Oct. 24, 1:00 PM at Pratt Field in Amherst, MA (Homecoming)

The Little Three is on, boys and girls. And Wesleyan is mad, oh, so mad. The Lord Jeffs gave the Cardinals their only loss of 2014, robbing Wesleyan of its second Little Three title in three years, its first sole NESCAC title, and its first undefeated season since 1969. This Cardinals team is much different, though, as we know. Still, their game plan is the same. Run, run, run. And Amherst is much the same. They’re almost the same team (get the title now?) If you like old school football (with one little twist), you’ve come to the right place.

What is that twist, you ask? Both QBs might be the fastest runners on their teams. If you really get down to it, of course, running quarterbacks are really old school (I’m talking original, no-throwing football), but the flexibility to line up under center one play and play smashmouth, run a read option the next, and roll out for a 15-yard pass on the third is still a rare commodity. But that’s what we have on both sides this weekend, with Amherst’s Reece Foy ’18 and Wesleyan’s Gernald Hawkins ’18. You’re watching the crown jewel of NESCAC quarterbacks for the next two-plus seasons face off live and in color this weekend.

Amherst X-factor: Linebackers Parker Chapman ’17, Jack Drew ’16 and Tom Kleyn ’16

Aside from the obvious intrigue at QB this week, this trio of ‘backers will be huge for Amherst for two reasons. One, Evan Boynton ’17 has clearly turned into a star, which means that teams are going to start planning for him, especially coming hard up the middle. I don’t think that will be a huge part of Amherst’s defensive strategy playing a run-heavy team and one that sweeps quite often, but it has to be in there at times because Boynton has so much success attacking the middle of the line. Wesleyan’s O-line and backs will be ready for it, and so Boynton’s linebacker mates are going to be shouldering a lot of responsibility this week. They need to be ready for Hawkins to take off, Jaylen Berry ’18 or Lou Stevens ’16 to come right at them, or for Devon Carrillo ’16 to break one out wide, while also keeping Hawkins from dumping an easy ball over their heads. The Cardinals’ offense is a tough one to game plan for.

Wesleyan X-factor: WR Mike Breuler ’16

Breuler had a career game last week with nine catches and a TD. And speaking of what other teams are looking out for, well … Breuler’s not it. As mentioned, Amherst will be expecting a lot of runs from different ball carriers, so Hawkins needs to keep them honest, and Breuler seems to be his main target with 19 receptions on the year. The second-leading receiver, Carrillo, had four of his seven catches in one game, and is more likely to have 20 rushes than five receptions. Hawkins hasn’t shown an ability to consistently take care of the ball and move the offense with his arm. Time to prove that by connecting with Breuler.

Prediction: Amherst 33 – Wesleyan 15

I’m sorry, but I think this game lacks drama. The Lord Jeffs have allowed 13 points at home in two games, and it’s Homecoming Weekend, which should provide a boost. I think a fiery Wesleyan team will make it interesting for a half, and then Head Coach EJ Mills makes enough adjustments to shut down the Cardinals’ rushing attack. That means more pressure on Hawkins’ arm, and that’s never, ever good against the Amherst secondary. A couple turnovers in the third quarter and this game gets out of reach quickly before Amherst starts milking clock with its own multi-faceted running game.

The only way I see Wesleyan flipping the script is if someone breaks a big run or two, preferably Hawkins, as that would draw the linebackers in next time he rolls out. It’s going to take an A+ game, though for the Cards to go home victorious. What’s worse, the LJs are the league’s best at forcing pressure on the quarterback. For a young gunslinger, that spells trouble.

The Bermuda Triangle Takes up Residence in Amherst

Jaymie Spears '16 was named a USA College Preseason all-American before this season. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Jaymie Spears ’16 was named a USA College Preseason all-American before this season. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

NESCAC quarterbacks know that they risk disaster every time they drop back against Amherst. Over the past few years, The Jeffs have been far and away the best at creating interceptions. They led the league in both 2013 and 2014, totaling 37 interceptions over that time. The finest moment for the group was against Middlebury in 2013 when they intercepted Mac Foote ’14 five times in a 37-16 beatdown. This year Amherst brings back three longtime starters, seniors Jaymie Spears ’16, Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn ’16, and Chris Gow ’16. Those three represented the backbone of the secondary a year ago, and this year they will be the driving force for a defensive unit that is looking to improve despite losing a few key pieces.

All three of Gow, Spears and Fairfield-Sonn have become integral parts of the defense over the years. Their strengths and skill sets vary widely, allowing the defensive staff to rely on each of them to fill in a specific role that makes the group together so good. For Head Coach EJ Mills, how the pieces fit together is what makes this trio so good.

“As good as they are individually, their greatest strength is how they play together as a unit,” Mills says.

Each of the three remind me of some NFL or college stars. Even though they play slightly different positions, the best comparison I have for Fairfield-Sonn is former LSU and current Arizona Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu because of how they attack at the line of scrimmage and have a knack for the ball. Fairfield-Sonn had four total turnovers last year, two on interceptions and two on fumble recoveries. From his strong safety position, Fairfield-Sonn has the freedom to read what is in front of him. Yet Coach Mills was quick to add that Fairfield-Sonn is instinctive enough that he always makes the right read and doesn’t get beaten deep because of his aggression. That aggression is not just on the field, but it carries over to pregame. Fairfield-Sonn describes himself as the “energy and hype guy” who gets his teammates going in the locker room and right before the game. That he is one of the smallest players on the field at 5’10” and 175 pounds (I suspect that height might be an exaggeration too) makes no difference.

Then there is the brain in the back, free safety Chris Gow. He is in charge of making all of the coverage calls on the field. When the offense tries to catch the Jeffs off balance with motion, Gow is the player who makes the adjustment calls. Fairfield-Sonn compared him to Earl Thomas, the safety for the Seattle Seahawks, because of Gow’s defensive quarterback tendencies. I shouldn’t undersell his athletic abilities either. He has the speed to cover a lot of ground in the back end, and he is physical enough that he led the Jeffs in tackles last week against Bates. He had four interceptions a year ago, including one against Trinity where the Bantams tried to take a shot deep but were foiled by Gow.

As for the most decorated member of the secondary, Jaymie Spears … Coach Mills just chuckled when asked about him. What he kept coming back to is best summed up by University of Miami player Santana Moss.

Big time players step up in big games.

Simple as that.

Not really, of course. Spears does a million things well on the football field, and one of them is that he rises the occasion at the best possible moment. Spears has started for Amherst since his sophomore year and over that time has become a star. In 2013 against Middlebury, it was Spears who returned an interception 74 yards for a touchdown to put the nail in the coffin. It was last year when Spears became a force to be fully reckoned with. He had six interceptions and eight pass breakups, and it was his exceptional timing that made the biggest difference.  Not even five minutes into the 2014 season, Spears blocked a Bates field goal to keep the game scoreless. In the third quarter, one play after Bates had intercepted Alex Berluti ’17 at the Amherst 30-yard line, Spears snagged his second interception of the game to keep the Bobcats at bay. Then in the biggest game of the year against Wesleyan, Spears blocked an extra point which ended up giving Amherst the chance to make a field goal to tie the game at the end of regulation.

Spears is one of the most athletic players in the league, but at the corner position that takes you only so far. Mills said that Spears watches as much film as anybody on Amherst, and he picks up on receivers tendencies very well. That combination allows him to always stay balanced and in control. The obvious comparison for him is Darrelle Revis, but Richard Sherman might be a better one because Spears always stays to one side of the field in Amherst’s defensive scheme. Fairfield-Sonn noted that because Spears is the boundary corner, he often lines up next to the opposing sideline and gets trash talked a good amount. “But Jaymie lets his play do all the talking for him,” Fairfield-Sonn says.

The final spot of the field corner is filled by Stefan Soucy ’17, a part-time player last year who replaces Ryan Duzyk ’15. Soucy looks more like a safety than a corner at 6’1″ and 210 pounds, but he still has the athleticism to stay with receivers. And the pipe line of talented defensive backs is strong with Brown transfer Kyle Obana ’18 and Nate Tyrell ’19 both potential starters next year.

As good as this secondary is, they still have their warts. A good counter-argument can be raised that the current Jeffs secondary is overrated and has gotten lucky. Against Middlebury last year, a rainstorm made throwing the ball very difficult, and so we did not get to see what Matt Milano ’16 could do against the Jeffs. Trinity also was without starting QB Henry Foye ’16 last year which meant they were left without a capable thrower on the roster. Then, as further evidence, you could point to the game that Wesleyan’s Jesse Warren ’15 had last season. He was able to gash the Jeffs’ secondary for big gains, finishing with two touchdowns and 306 yards on just 26 attempts (11.8 yards per attempt). Amherst intercepted him just once, though the Fairfield-Sonn interception did lead to a short field and an Amherst touchdown.

They were only third in the NESCAC in pass defense behind Wesleyan and Williams a year ago. However, both of those secondaries have to replace a significant amount of personnel. The Williams secondary also benefited from the fact that they trailed in a lot of games and so teams wanted to run the ball against them.

On Saturday the Amherst defense held Bates to 117 passing yards and had no interceptions: not an exceptional performance against the run-heavy Bobcats. The game tells us little about what the Jeffs are capable of, though the ability of the one true receiver threat for Bates, Mark Riley ’16, to catch seven balls for 87 yards is troubling.

The arguments against the Amherst secondary are fair ones, but the strengths of the Jeffs drown them out. Passing windows against them are narrow to non-existent, and the possibilities for all three seniors are huge. Mills has seen his fair share of elite secondaries at Amherst, and he was excited about the possibilities for this group.

“I don’t want to call them the best unit I’ve had back there, but they have a chance to be very very good this year,” Mills admitted.

In the next couple of weeks the Jeffs will enter the meat of their schedule against Middlebury and Wesleyan, and that secondary will be called on to live up to the high standards they have set over the years in big moments.

Football End-of-Year Awards: The Definitive Edition

The committee of two has met and after much deliberation has made their decisions. All decisions on awards are final and complaints should be addressed to 472 Smith Union, Bowdoin College. Or the comments section works, too. If you want, take a look at our Mid-Season Awards to see what’s changed. Lastly, these are our own personal opinions of who should win each award. They are not predictions on what we think the NESCAC coaches will decide.

Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics
Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics

Offensive Player of the Year: Quarterback Matt Milano ’16 (Middlebury)

“Another Middlebury quarterback? Really original pick there guys.” Well, Milano didn’t really leave us with much of a choice given how he performed in the month of the year. In fact here are Mac Foote’s stats from last year and Milano’s from 2014.

Player A: 179-289 (61.9 percent), 2004 yards, 6.9 yards per attempt, 24 touchdowns, 3 interceptions.

Player B: 259-421 (61.5 percent), 2766 yards, 6.6 yards per attempt, 26 touchdowns, 12 interceptions.

Player B has a huge lead in yards overall and a slight lead in touchdowns, but Player A was better in yards per attempt and threw a quarter of the interceptions. You could probably tell, but Player A is Foote and Player B is Milano. We don’t put the comparison there to argue that Milano had a better year than Foote did last year, but we just want to put the numbers there so people don’t say Milano was merely a product of the Middlebury system.

The junior took a little time to get settled, but once he did, Middlebury morphed into the hottest team in the NESCAC. Milano put up 18 touchdowns over the last four weeks to go with just one interception, and his yards per attempt rose every week from Week 3 until the end of the season. His play is made even more impressive by the fact that the Panthers averaged only 2.6 yards per rush, worst in the NESCAC, putting even more pressure on the gunslinger. Milano should be even better next year when he and most of his receivers return.

Also considered: Tyler Grant ’17 (Bowdoin), Chudi Iregbulem ’15 (Trinity), Jesse Warren ’15 (Wesleyan) and Mark Riley ’16 (Bates)

Jake Bussani '14 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)
Jake Bussani ’14 (Courtesy of Wesleyan Athletics)

Defensive Player of the Year: Safety Jake Bussani ’14 (Wesleyan)

The NESCAC website only lists the top 50 tacklers, and Bussani falls well short of making that with only 30 tackles on the year. So how does a player who was only sixth on his own team in tackles win DPOY?

Well, first of all, Bussani won by the narrowest of margins over a host of other worthy players. Then it is important to understand Bussani’s role in the Wesleyan defense; a role that requires him to patrol the deep part of the field. He did that to near perfection with seven interceptions and five pass breakups. Bussani also returned two of his interceptions all the way back for touchdowns. Also, he was part of a secondary that was a good rung or two above everyone else and allowed a minuscule 124.0 yards per game through the air.

Bussani and teammate Justin Sanchez '17 smother Alex Way '16 in the Cardinals' Week 8 shutout. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)
Bussani and teammate Justin Sanchez ’17 smother Alex Way ’16 in the Cardinals’ Week 8 shutout. (Courtesy of Williams Athletics)

Conference coaches know how good of a player he is considering he has made the All-NESCAC team three times already. Last year his stats were even less impressive with 27 tackles and four interceptions. Given how he has been even better this year, the coaches should recognize him once again.

Also considered: Chris Tamasi ’15 (Amherst), Jaymie Spears ’16 (Amherst), Dan Pierce ’16 (Middlebury) Mark Upton ’17 (Bates)

Coach of the Year: EJ Mills (Amherst)

Head Coach EJ Mills (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Head Coach EJ Mills (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

Below is the conversation that we had when talking about Coach of the Year. We weren’t planning on publishing it at the time, but it’s just so juicy that we could not resist.

Adam: Alright, Coach of the Year is another interesting one. Ritter has a strong argument because of how well Middlebury did, but I think Mills deserves it.

Joe: Amherst was expected to be near the top again and Middlebury was supposed to be much worse this year.

Adam: Maybe so, but Amherst went through a lot to be undefeated. They played three QBs and switched their lead running back as the season went along. In close games they went 5-0 which is a testament, too, to Mills’ coaching. When I look at Amherst’s season it seemed like they always played a little better than I was expecting or somehow managed to win games when they got outplayed. The coach deserves credit for that.

Joe: I guess. I just feel like the Coach of the Year award is almost equivalent to a team overall achievement award, because we can’t quantify from the outside how much of a team’s success is due to the coach. I expected Amherst to beat everyone but Trinity and Wesleyan at the beginning of the year. As the year went on I got to realizing that Amherst was the best team, but I was always skeptical of Middlebury. I had them middle of the pack but they clearly overachieved. I don’t want Mills to win just because he coached the best team.

Adam: My argument would be that it wasn’t necessarily clear that Amherst really was the best team. Middlebury got better as the year went along and I think mostly because Milano got more comfortable. I didn’t expect he would get so good so fast and that is why I think Middlebury finished with six straight wins. Obviously coaching matters there, but just seems like the player still has a lot of agency, also.

Joe: True….splitting hairs here at this point. I think both are great coaches and just like talking about it.

Drew Jacobs (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)
Drew Jacobs (Courtesy of Middlebury Athletics)

Rookie of the Year: Running Back Drew Jacobs ’18 (Middlebury)

There wasn’t an absolute standout first year this season that burst onto the scene like QB Sonny Puzzo last year or LB Tim Patricia ’16 the year before, but Jacobs was productive for the pass-heavy Panthers, and among first-year players he was first in rushing yards and third in receiving yards. His production was all over the map, as his total yards went 113, 55, 43, 154, 62, 82 and 8, as he left the game early in Week 7 and sat out all of Week 8. With another year under his belt, though, Jacobs could turn into one of the league’s best backs, but he will still have to fight off the presence of teammate Jonathan Hurvitz ’17 and classmate John Jackson ’18 for playing time.

Also considered: Slotback Frank Williams ’18 (Bates), K Zach Altneu ’18 (Hamilton), RB/KR Amman Weaver ’18 (Hamilton), WR  Mbasa Mayikana ’18 (Colby)

Zach Trause (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Zach Trause (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Special Teams Player of the Year: KR/PR/RB Zack Trause ’15

Ike Fuchs ’17 made a push for this award in Week 7 when he broke a Wesleyan record with five field goals in one game (and by going 7-7 FG and 8-8 XP in the last three weeks), but Trause’s body of work is enough for him to get the nod. Though most of the fireworks came in Week 2 when Trause followed up his third quarter kick return TD with a punt return TD early in the fourth quarter to seal the Jumbos’ victory, he was an explosive returner all year. His 32.1 yards per kickoff return were tops in the NESCAC and seventh in all of Division-III. Players need 1.2 attempts per game to qualify for leaderboards, so Trause failed to qualify with only eight punt returns, but if he had qualified, his 19.6 yards per punt return would have placed him fifth in the nation.

Trause taking back a punt 49 yards to the house against Bates in Week 2. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)
Trause taking back a punt 49 yards to the house against Bates in Week 2. (Courtesy of Tufts Athletics)

Also considered: Ike Fuchs ’17 (Wesleyan), WR/KR/PR Ryan Rizzo ’17 (Middlebury) and K Phillip Nwosu’ 15 (Amherst)

Feel free to tell us how wrong we are in the comments section.

The Lord Jeffs Reign Over 2014: Stock Report 11/10

Courtesy of Amherst Athletics
Courtesy of Amherst Athletics

Maybe it was the game being played under the lights or the NESN TV camera crew, but the NESCAC season ended on a high note with Amherst claiming the undisputed NESCAC championship and Little Three championship by beating their archrival Williams.

Like so many other games, the Jeffs did not look great winning the game, but that does not really matter when you go 8-0. An early miscue put Williams up 3-0, but Amherst scored the next 17 points to gain a comfortable 17-3 lead. The Ephs managed to fight back and score a touchdown with under three minutes left to make things interesting, but Jaymie Spears ’16 recovered the onside kick to ensure the victory for the Jeffs.

In a lot of ways the game was a microcosm of the season for Amherst. They leaned heavily on their defense to come up with stops, and while Austin Lommen ’16 was able to throw for 197 yards, his two interceptions were costly for Williams. Amherst finishes the season with 17 interceptions with Jaymie Spears ’16 leading the way with six on the season and one Saturday. Max Lippe ’15 was efficient but not explosive in the passing game with Gene Garay ’15 his favorite target. Williams slowed down their running game enough which was a major reason for why the game remained close.

Looking back across the season, the Lord Jeffs were not a dominant juggernaut that ran through their schedule, but they remained perfect week after week in different ways. The one constant for Amherst was their defense. The Jeffs were the only team allow less than 10 points per game, and they were able to suffocate teams like Middlebury and Williams. But even the defense faltered a little in the biggest game of the year against Wesleyan. The Cardinals scored 30 points and had 433 total yards in the game, meaning that the offense and special teams needed to come through. And they did just that with the kicking game playing a major role in the victory

The Jeffs were a team that did just enough. They didn’t necessarily control games and finished eighth in the NESCAC in time of possession, but that defense was so good that it didn’t matter most of the time. Against Williams, Amherst only held the ball for 23:54 (less than 40% of the game). The key for the Jeffs was their 5-0 record in games decided by less than 10 points. Amherst never made a mistake that cost them the game, something that is easy to take for granted until you see things like Trinity missing a game winning field goal in the final minute. The Jeffs maintained a mentality that they would never beat themselves, and won games because their opponents struggled to do the same.

That mentality starts with no-nonsense Head Coach EJ Mills and trickles down to the senior leaders on the team Max Lippe ’15 did not play in the first three and a half games, but when called upon he showed no rust and helped to steady the offense in the second half of the year. Phillip Nwosu ’15 struggled at the beginning of the year (Check out our Stock Down section from October 6) but then was carried off the field by his teammates two weeks later after hitting four field goals including the game winner. Chris Tamasi ’15 was a terror off the edge all season tying for the league lead in sacks with five. And Ned Deane ’15, although often overshadowed by Tamasi, played equally well in the middle of the Amherst defense

Almost under the radar, Mills has created a dynasty at Amherst. Before the season we spilled a lot of ink concentrating on how Wesleyan and Trinity appeared to be close to separating themselves from the rest of the NESCAC. Amherst made that look silly. Since 2009, Amherst has collected four of the last six NESCAC titles, three of them undisputed. In 2009, 2011, and now 2014 they finished with a perfect 8-0 record. Since 2009, the Jeffs’ record is 43-5 (89.6%), and the class of 2015 goes out with a 29-3 record and three NESCAC championships.

At a time when Williams has gone through one of its worst downswings in decades, the Jeffs are riding as high as ever. Mills deserves much of the credit for that. He has built a program that is built to contend year after year. Despite playing three different quarterbacks and playing the third string running back for most of the Williams game, the depth of the Amherst program made sure the Jeffs could survive those problems. Mills has done an incredible job recruiting and 2014 was another representation of what a special coach he is.

Stock Up

Courtesy of Greg Sullivan (http://sevenstrong.net/)
Linebacker Joe Diaz ’15 breaks up a Wesleyan pass Saturday. Courtesy of Greg Sullivan (http://sevenstrong.net/)

These will be short because of time constraints, but we do want to mention some of the stars from this week.

Wesleyan Seniors: The most exciting game of the day came between Wesleyan and Trinity with the fourth quarter offering more than enough excitement to go around. Go ahead and read about the whole thing here. The ending was a sweet one for the best senior class at Wesleyan in a really long time. This class coincided with Coach Mike Whalen taking over, and he has a special connection with them. The accomplishments of Wesleyan over the past two years are numerous. Some of the most impressive are in 2013 the first Little Three title in 43 years and beating Trinity for the first time in 14 tries this season. The Cardinals were never able to complete an undefeated season, but that should not diminish their legacy.

Quarterback Matt Milano ’16 (Middlebury): The junior completed his first season as a starter in style by finding open receivers all day long. He finished with an insane 6 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and 442 yards through the air. Milano came into his own as the season went along despite some early season struggles. He has more than confirmed that he is the next in line to be remembered as a great Middlebury QB. Is it enough for him to take home NESCAC Player of the Year honors? We will release our awards and All-NESCAC team tomorrow while the official announcement will come later this week.

 Linebacker Mark Upton ’17 (Bates): Upton has been a rising star for much of the season on a really good Bates defense, and he played his best game of the season Saturday. He had 11 total tackles, a sack, two pass breakups, and a fumble recovery and return for 34 yards. The fumble recovery was his first of the season after he forced four fumbles over the course of the season. His production was incredibly steady throughout the year as he never finished a game with fewer than 8 tackles. Bates will lose a good amount of players off their defense so Upton will take on even more importance next year.

Stock Down

NESCAC Seniors: Go ahead and call us saps for doing this, but we don’t see any real reason to break down who had a tough game in the final weekend of the season. The only reason that we put NESCAC seniors here is because they unfortunately have played their last game of college football. They all played for varying reasons, but for most of them it came down to loving the game too much not to play it. We would just like to thank them for everything they have given to us over the past four years.

Keep on Trucking- The Weekend Preview

The NESCAC season is incredibly short compared to most other conferences, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any lulls. This weekend offers what looks like one of the sleepier slates on the NESCAC schedule barring a huge upset somewhere. Compounding those potentially lopsided matchups are that many NESCAC schools are on fall break meaning student crowds (already usually pretty small) will be practically non-existent.

That does not mean there won’t be plenty to watch later today. Everything starts at noon with Hamilton looking for their first win against a Bowdoin team trying to get to .500, and it will end with the Route 7 battle between Middlebury and Williams. We’ll be giving live updates and analysis on every game on Twitter (@cacsportsblog).

Two  to Watch

1. Running Back Kyle Gibson ’15 (Wesleyan) – Gibson was the secondary part of the two headed running attack last year, and the injury of LaDarius Drew ’15 means Gibson has become the primary back. So far his yards per run average is down 2.7 yards from 2013 in large part because Gibson has not been able to have any runs over 30 yards. Sure he is still third in the NESCAC in rushing, but that is nowhere near the level that Wesleyan needs from him. That surprisingly anemic running attack is the biggest difference between this year’s Cardinals team and the 2013 version. Bates has been the second best team against the run so far this year, and a breakout game from Gibson would be huge for the Cardinals confidence going forward.

2. Quarterback Chase Rosenberg ’17 (Hamilton) – The sophomore QB looked like he might be primed for a huge year after throwing for 320 yards in the season opener against Tufts, but he has taken a step back since then against Wesleyan and Trinity. His past two games he has completed fewer than 50% of his passes, but he could have a bounce back game today. On the season opposing quarterbacks are averaging 240 yards per game and are completing 70.2% of their passes against the Bowdoin defense. Last year Rosenberg had one of his best games against Bowdoin throwing for 269 yards. A performance similar to that would end the losing streak for Hamilton.

The Picks

Game of the Week – Middlebury (1-2) at Williams (1-2)

Any time the Game of the Week features two teams under .500, that tells you everything you need to know about what type of week it is. That isn’t to say that this game does not offer any intrigue. Middlebury won this matchup by a touchdown last year despite Williams holding the ball for 35+ minutes.

The Ephs will need that type of performance if they are somehow able to upset Middlebury. Williams has not looked at all like the same team since Week 1. Granted Bowdoin did not give much in the way of resistance in that game, but Williams still appeared to be a complete football team then. Now Williams needs to turn things around in a hurry if they want to keep another season from spiralling downwards.

Middlebury is simply hoping that the shutout their offense had last week was a product of a great defense and tough throwing weather. The Panthers are still only the eighth best rushing team in the NESCAC but they have shown much more commitment to the ground game. Williams can be attacked on the ground so the time of possession should be much closer this year.

In the end Middlebury is simply a better team. They know they are much better than their record indicates and will use this game to start a second half upswing.

Prediction: Middlebury 28 over Williams 13

Bowdoin (1-2) at Hamilton (0-3)- The Bowdoin running game exploded last week against Tufts, and Hamilton is tied with the Jumbos for seventh in the league in rushing yards allowed per game. Don’t expect Tyler Grant to repeat his performance from Week 3, but the Polar Bears should still have success on the ground.

On the other hand, Bowdoin’s defense has allowed the most yards per game and is tied for ninth with the Continentals in points allowed per game. So both offenses will have a chance to break out this week (or keep rolling in the Polar Bears’ case).

Prediction: Hamilton 24 over Bowdoin 17.

Wesleyan (3-0) at Bates (1-2)- As mentioned above, the Wesleyan ground game hasn’t been nearly as prolific as in 2013. Given that and the Bobcats success in defending the run, Jesse Warren might be called upon to move the ball against Bates. Regardless, Wesleyan has more talent than Bates and shouldn’t struggle in this game.

Prediction: Wesleyan 35 over Bates 10

Colby (0-3) at Amherst (3-0)- The brutal opening schedule for Colby concludes with this game at Amherst. The Colby offense has only scored seven points in every game, and facing off against the Jeffs’ defense is not going to make this week earlier. For Amherst fans, the QB position is up in the air right now. Poor quarterback play cost the Jeffs their only loss in 2013, and they are hoping EJ Mills can settle on one player instead of going back and forth.

Prediction: Amherst 20 over Colby 7

Tufts (2-1) at Trinity (3-0)- The Jumbo stampede hit a bit of a road block once they had to go on the road to Bowdoin, and things get tougher in Hartford this week. After seeing the Jumbos in person, we can say that we have never seen a team run as many screens as Tufts does. Our guess is that at least half of QB Jack Doll’s ’15 passes were behind the line of scrimmage. Trinity should come out hungry in this one as they always seem to do at home. The streak will end sometime, but it won’t be Saturday.

Prediction: Trinity 34 over Tufts 14


Wednesday Links

The last few years have seen schools improve in leaps and bounds in terms of providing highlights and content on their websites. The biggest difference is of course Northeast Sports Net which provides quality webcasts and commentators for not only football but a lot of other sports as well. Because NSN has the tapes of games in storage, school are able to use them for more highlight packages. These help make the game come alive for alumni and parents unable to attend games in person. Also schools now publish much of the information you would normally find in a game program online a few days beforehand. Below are highlights of games and some weekend previews.


Interesting to hear at the end of the video Coach EJ Mills reference not managing the end of the game. We think that refers to Nick Kelly ’17 scoring a touchdown instead of going down at the one yard line with about a minute left.

In addition, the Amherst website had a great article on Amherst lineman Max Lehrman ’15, Scott Mergner ’15, and Jonathan Woodrow ’15 that you can find here.

Bates- Preview of this weekend’s game against Tufts.

Hamilton- If you haven’t checked out Hamilton’s new football fan site, here is the link

Middlebury- Local Vermont TV station WPTZ has highlights of the Middlebury-Wesleyan game.

Tufts- Highlights of the streak busting win are on the Tufts website.

Trinity- Trinity has a preview of this weekend’s showdown against Williams.

Williams- Williams highlights from their opening win against Bowdoin. Then they have their own preview of the game with Trinity.

Amherst Team Preview – The Jeffs Look to Keep Rolling

2013 Record: 7-1

Returning Starters: 16 (six offense, eight defense, two specialists)

Offensive Overview:

2013 was a down year for the Amherst offense. Though they still finished fourth in points per game with 21.1, Middlebury was third with 29.8 points per game. That meant Amherst came exactly as close to finishing ninth in points per game as they came to finishing third. The main problems were at the quarterback position where Head Coach EJ Mills could not settle between Alex Berluti ’17 and Max Lippe ’15. Lippe started the season as the starter and saw the vast majority of the snaps, but his occasional struggles led to Berluti seeing some significant playing time as well. Lippe brings size and experience to the position and should once again have a chance to be the undisputed starter. Running back is a strength with Kenny Adinkra ’16 and Nick Kelly ’17 possessing a good complement of skills. Adinkra is stronger and can run over defenders while Kelly is a very tall 6’2″ for a running back.

Receivers Jake O’Malley ’14 and Wade McNamara ’14 will have to be replaced with Brian Ragone ’16 inheriting the top outside position. Jackson McGonagle ’16 will see an uptick in playing time and is a big target at 6’3″. In the slot Gene Garay ’15 will give teams fits with his quick pivot routes while also returning kickoffs. Henry Falter ’15 will be the primary tight end. The offensive line lacks depth with only sixth upperclassmen so sophomores and freshman might have to play earlier than Mills would like. Scott Mergner ’15, Colman Duggan ’15, and Jonathan Woodrow ’15 have a lot of experience and will be invaluable breaking in the two new starters. Lippe and Berluti were only sacked eight times combined, and the line should be able to replicate that type of protection.

Defensive Overview:

The top four tacklers from 2013 are all back to lead a unit that should once again be one of the very best. Like so many other teams in the NESCAC, the strength of the defense is in the front seven. Amherst runs a 3-4 scheme that can shut down run attacks. Max Lehrman ’15, Robert Perdoni ’16, and Sam Caldwell ’16 all return as starters on the line that has several other upperclassmen returning for depth. In the middle Chris Tamasi ’15 enjoyed a first team All-NESCAC season in 2013, and an argument could be made that other inside linebacker Ned Deane ’15 had as good a season even though he did not earn All-NESCAC honors. Tyler Mordas ’16 returns after stepping into a starting role because of injury, and Tomas Kleyn ’16 looks to fill the other outside position after injury cut his 2013 short. Many other talented linebackers are on the roster like Parker Chapman ’17, so Mills will have the luxury of rolling out different packages for passing and running downs.

The secondary has more questions in it after the graduation of Landrus Lewis ’14 and Max Dietz ’14. Talent is still plentiful with Jaymie Spears ’16, Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn ’16, and Chris Gow ’16 combining for 8 interceptions last season. The other corner spot across from Spears is wide open with Stefan Soucy ’17 possibly capable of making a huge jump of playing time. The secondary has to tighten up some of the holes it had despite all the interceptions they had as a group.


Three Big Questions:

1. How good can the junior class be?

Because of the depth of talent Amherst brings in every season, each class takes time to gain playing time, but the 2016 group has already stepped into major roles especially on defense. In total 11 starters could come from the junior class with many of them already having starting experience. There are plenty of senior stars like Tamasi and Garay, but the success of Amherst will come down to their juniors.

2. Can a QB step up?

The one thing that can hold back great programs is mediocre quarterback play. And make no mistake that Amherst is a great program with the most wins of any team in the last five seasons. Berluti has great physical tools, but Lippe is the QB who Amherst will ultimately depend on because of his experience. If he can play better then the Jeffs will be right there once again in the title mix.

3. Can they continue to force turnovers?

Amherst led the NESCAC with 23 defensive turnovers with a whopping 20 of those coming as interceptions. Expecting that same number of interceptions is foolish, but an uptick in fumble recoveries could offset that. Turnovers is a statistic that can see a lot of variation year to year, and a steep drop could cause more yards and points to be scored against the Jeffs.

Team MVP: Kicker Phillip Nwosu ’15 is an unusual choice for MVP, but consider the type of team Amherst was last season. They thrived behind a strong defense and offense that didn’t mess up too often. The importance of kickers is increased in low scoring games, and Nwosu is as good as they come in the NESCAC. He is a threat from anywhere within 50 yards and will force touchbacks on most of his kickoffs.

Biggest Game: Oct. 18 at Wesleyan

Amherst needs to avenge their only loss of 2013. Last season Wesleyan came in and ruined homecoming for the senior Jeffs, and in the process the Cardinals announced they had arrived. Both Wesleyan touchdowns came after they started the drive in Amherst territory, so field position will be a point of concentration this time around. Ultimately it was losing the turnover battle by four that doomed the Jeffs last time. This time around could be a different story.

Best Tweet of the Offseason: No word on who ended up winning the Open.

This is a team with a lot of pride and talent that is more than capable of running the table.